Friday, May 27, 2011

Christian Confusion

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Friday Nairobi! Today got off to an interesting start. We got to know a bit more about what Dave does here in Nairobi. He works at Church Army on the East side of Nairobi. From what I understand, Church Army is comprised of a variety of different facilities. There is an academy which serves to educate children from very young ages through grade eight, a university, a dental clinic, and soon to come a medical clinic. We tagged along with him to work to check out the facility. Andi was especially interested, as her brother worked there for six months last year as an intern. We met this year’s interns, who were either just out of secondary school or just graduated from university. All of them were very friendly. We sat in on their morning routine, which I understand consists of discussing issues as pertaining to the bible or various readings they have been working on. Today, we were in the audience of two of their powerpoint presentations on various parts of a book they have been reading and analyzing for about two months. So, being fully aware of the intensity of religious belief and practice at the Church Army (hence the name), I was almost ready for anything.

I am going to try to stay neutral here when discussing what occurred this morning. Two powerpoint presentations were conducted, regarding what I internalized as a rather one-sided account of religious view. Since having discussed this morning’s presentations and following discussions with Andi (an Episcopalian), I know that my opinions of what we heard/saw were not because I am not a Christian. In several instances, I was tempted to question what had been said, or pose a different view. However, I felt it was inappropriate, especially because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just questioning these concepts because I do not belong to that religion/am simply misunderstanding. Following these presentations, when Dave had gone to do a bit of work elsewhere, Andi, myself, and the interns engaged in a variety of interesting topics of discussion.

These topics ranged from cultural differences in dating, social life, music, and then ultimately it came back to religion. One of the interns was very realistic in her balance of religion and how she applied it to her own life. Another was quite set in his ways, for lack of a better description. When Andi, has a rather religious background, offered her point of view on several topics also sharing her background, he asked her “what happened??” regarding her religiousness. He contradicted various points he had made in his powerpoint presentation when discussing what he thinks is right versus wrong, etc. There is no need to get into the details, just know that I found myself frustrated with the lack of open-mindedness. Andi later asked me why I had not revealed that I was not Christian to offer an alternate perspective to which I responded that I didn’t want my points to be void or dismissed. I didn’t want him to think that because I am not a Christian, of course I would disagree. I hope that makes sense.

After a very eye opening and increasingly intense discussion with some of the interns, we headed home with Dave and Andi and I recounted several of the discussion points once back in privacy. We ate a bit of lunch and headed out again to see the Giraffe Center! We were in traffic for a very long time. I haven’t seen traffic in a while, and I’m telling you I haven’t been missing it. We slowly, but surely arrived at the Giraffe Center which was so fun! They house an endangered species of giraffe to assist in safe breeding, later to be released into the wild. So… we fed them. They gave us little pellets as we walked up the stairs of a small building (so we could be level with their heads) and the giraffes who had come to visit very politely accepted our offerings. They were so gentle! And their tongues are absurdly long. It was so cool! We were visited by three females – Helen, Lynn, and Kelly. No, I did not name them… but I know you think I did. We spent a little time there, thoroughly enjoying giraffe slobber and then headed back with Dave, Lucy, and Joshua (their 11 month old son).
They are so tall!! We walked up to the platform seen in this picture to get a chance to feed them.
Feeding a giraffe!
On the way, we stopped to take in the view of arguably the largest slum in Africa. The name escapes me (sorry). It was astounding. Dave explained that in some instances, a slum could be safer than downtown Nairobi because of the incredible sense of community that dwells there. I hadn’t considered that as a factor and thought it was very interesting. However, I wonder how safe I could really feel in the middle of this slum, despite my optimistic hopes.
Overlooking the slum.
A closer look, you can see how close together the roofs are!
Dave also told us about how the first ever Kenyan Registered Nurse, trained in-country around 40 years ago, began a clinic some time ago in the midst of a slum to help underprivileged children and provide maternity as well as labor and delivery care. It was inspiring and a part of me became excited at the prospect of working overseas. You never know… the beauty of nursing is that you could essentially work anywhere.

Anyway, after yet another fantastic meal upon our return, we are getting ready for our day tomorrow. The Church Army holds a children’s program on Saturday mornings and tomorrow there will be professional dancers, local artists, and lunch! Sounds pretty exciting, I’ll let you know. In the afternoon plan is to visit Masai Market. We have been warned that we have to become master bargainers, so we have been mentally preparing. Tomorrow is our last day in Africa… I can’t believe it. Until tomorrow!

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